“Every reader knows of writers who are like secrets one wants to keep, and whose books one wants to tell the world about. Millhauser is mine.”
—David Rollow, Boston Sunday Globe
From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author: the essential stories across three decades that showcase his indomitable imagination.
Steven Millhauser’s fiction has consistently, and to dazzling effect, dissolved the boundaries between reality and fantasy, waking life and dreams, the past and the future, darkness and light, love and lust. The stories gathered here unfurl in settings as disparate as nineteenth-century Vienna, a contemporary Connecticut town, the corridors of a monstrous museum, and Thomas Edison’s laboratory, and they are inhabited by a wide-ranging cast of characters, including a knife thrower and teenage boys, ghosts and a cartoon cat and mouse. But all of the stories are united in their unfailing power to surprise and enchant. From the earliest to the stunning, previously unpublished novella-length title story—in which a man who is dead, but not quite gone, reaches out to two lonely women—Millhauser in this magnificent collection carves out ever more deeply his wondrous place in the American literary canon.
“Powerful . . . A book of astonishingly beautiful and moving stories by one of America’s finest and most original writers. . . . Faulkner said that short stories were harder to write than novels . . . Stories tend to see life on a smaller scale [than novels] and confine themselves to a short span to time and a small number of characters. Their most admirable quality is associated with what Steven Millhauser calls ‘artful exclusions.’ Like poems, good stories never overexplain. They only hint that a second, slower, and more careful reading will deepen our understanding. Millhauser’s stories have that effect on me. They are never far from my mind and they return for a visit from time to time. . . . What they have in common is that most of them may be said to take place in what Hawthorne called ‘neutral territory’ between the real world and fairy land, where the actual and imaginary meet and each imbues itself with the nature of the other. Millhauser has a fascination with moments in our lives when something inexplicable happens, when our reality collides with some other reality, while the world we had taken for granted up to that moment turns strange, and even familiar things cease to be themselves, stripping us in the process of our identities, and leaving in their place something that has no name. . . . The shock of the real, along with the shock of something that transcends it, is what he wants us to experience. Millhauser is one of the most imaginative writers we have, capable of pure invention. . . . Sublime.” —Charles Simic, The New York Review of Books
“Millhauser’s capstone collection of strange fables, written over the past 30 years, don’t evoke life; they provoke thought.” —San Francisco Chronicle, Best of 2011
“Millhauser is a writer whose work partakes both of the dream logic strangeness of the post-Borgesian fictional tradition and the calm virtuosity of mass magazine American story writing. . . . Illusionism is an apt metaphor for the fiction writer’s art, which depends on making something revelatory happen while maintain the audience’s belief that what they are seeing is, at least in some way, real. Many of the characters and themes in Millhauser’s earlier stories allegorize this aspect of writing. . . . The new stories in the volume move away from Millhauser’s previous obsessions: the magic tricks and postmodern metatextuality for the most part recede in favour of an eerie realism. Steven Millhauser is at his best when he is mysterious but explicable—which is the case more now than ever.” —Michael Sayeu, Times Literary Supplement
“Mesmerizing . . . magical. We Others comprehends three decades of work, and it’s remarkable not only for the consistent delight it provides but also for the unwavering intensity of the vision that animates it. For all the wonder and fluency of these stories, they’re constructed on formal lines. . . . Millhauser’s fiction has always seemed larger than the space it fills; these stories cover as much ground, paragraph to paragraph, as any fiction I know. They are concerned with a cultural, political, moral or physical boundary that they approach and then overstep. They move inevitably toward the extreme expression of an idea or possibility. . . . Millhauser, like all the great fabulists, is first of all a great writer and a great stylist. His prose, which might seem restrained and often appears stripped of adornment, is doing considerable stylistic work. It’s often said that one feature of great writing is economy; but this is true only if we understand economy to mean the judicious use of language in every sense, not just the telegraphic prose one associates with the young Hemingway. There’s another kind of economy—the deliberate or apparent lack of economy—that’s harder to identify and harder still to do well, and this is the kind of writing for which Millhauser has an almost unrivaled genius. . . . The selected older stories are a joy to return to or to encounter for the first time. . . . Clear and precise and carefully ordered . . . Great stories are larger than the ideas that animate them. The best of these retreat to the edge of comprehension, they stand apart, they remain irreducible.”
—Aaron Thier, The Nation
“Outstanding . . . [In We Others], readers will find an extensive cast of characters, including a knife-thrower, adolescent boys on flying carpets, ghosts and a cartoon cat and mouse in addition to a previously unpublished novella-length title story in which a deceased man returns and reaches out to two lonely women. Each selection invites the reader to enter into the strangeness of a mysterious and fascinating place. Don’t miss these new and selected stories.”
—Jeanne Nicholson, The Providence Journal
“A Steven Millhauser story is meticulously worded, often off-kilter at heart, and deserving of comparisons to Borges and Kafka. He has built a reputation on producing a consistently mystifying and provocative product. In this volume of new and selected works written over 30 years, he offers us numerous tales from four volumes whose storylines have been creative loci for him for decades. These yarns, with their idyllic American backdrops, their driven geniuses entrenched in fin-de-siècle Europe, their wondrous, inexplicable occurrences, from flying carpets to frog wives, make demands on our imaginations, but definitely give back in return. And what’s more, the new stories in the volume display an unfamiliar restlessness, possibly a sign of stylistic changes afoot. . . . Millhauser’s recurring storylines are much like forms—we care less about the stories than about the emotions they produce. Some of his stories are intensely imagined biographies, or parts thereof, that ultimately turn inwards. . . . One of Millhauser’s most arresting stylistic quirks is to tell a story in the first person plural. Millhauser’s ‘we’ both invites and distances; it asks us to be part of a group, witnessing the bizarre events occurring before ‘our’ eyes, but it also gives a passive tone to the work, perpetually separating the teller of the story from the story itself. Naming the book We Others, then, raises the question: Are we part of ‘us’ or ‘them’? Are we witnesses, participants, outcasts? It is that kind of